Offered in 2017


Hot or Not? The Global Art Market (55+)

In 2015 Interchange, a painting by Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), traded hands in a private sale for the sum of US$300 million, making it the most expensive artwork ever sold. With the international art market garnering sales in excess of US$60 billion annually, we are compelled to ask which works are selling, who painted them and who is buying them. Of course, we also want to know why they’re worth so much, and whether the prices are justified.

In this course we will explore the birth and explosion of the global art market. We will delve into the psychology of collecting, examine the formation of value, discuss emerging markets, explore the risks inherent in the art market (for example, forgeries and black markets) and learn how technology is altering the industry.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: The Drive to Collect

From Medici patronage during Renaissance Italy, to the tradition of the European ‘Grand Tour,’ to the investment-driven collecting of recent years, we examine the history of collecting and what compels people to acquire items from the humble to the exalted.

Week 2: The Formation of the Global Market

The tradition of dealing in cultural property has thrived in Europe for centuries.  This week we look at where this began, the various markets in which art is traded, and the role of artists, dealers, academia and critics in the formation of the market.

Week 3: The Monetary and Social Value of Art

Supply and demand; this fundamental economic concept applies to the art world just as it does to any market.  With art, there are both tangible and intangible qualities that impact value.  This week we examine what characteristics contribute to or detract from the value of art as well as the societal and less tangible qualities that lend art value. 

Week 4: Who is buying and What are they buying?

Historically, Europe was the hub of the art market, trading largely in its own cultural goods.  Since then, New York has taken the lead with China establishing itself as a contender.  Who is buying and what are they buying?  We look at the new players with purchasing power (such as the Middle East) that helps drive today’s market for modern and contemporary art (generally early 20th century to today).  

Week 5: Fakes, Forgeries and the Black Market

Forgeries such as those by infamous painter Wolfgang Beltraachi litter the market; some sources claim that 50% of the artworks on the market are fake.  We explore some of the more notorious cases of fakes, systems that have emerged in order to weed out the bad apples, and look at why authentication in the artworld is such a difficult matter, even when millions of dollars are at stake.

Week 6: Technology, Art and the Market

The Internet has significantly broadened the market; a person may purchase an artwork from Vancouver on their phone in Jakarta with one click, sight-unseen.  We examine the ways in which technology dovetails with art in both creation (new media art, digital art) and commerce (online art galleries and auctions).  What does an increasingly global market mean for the value of art in the future? 

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussion (may vary from class to class)
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

Reading material (if applicable) will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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